chapter  4
8 Pages

The Alliance Israelite Universelle, 1860-1960

The title of M. Chouraqui's copious and important study * calls to mind Narcisse Leven's earlier history of the Alliance israelite universelle, Cinquante ans d'histoire (2 vols., Paris, 1911-20), and immediately invites comparison between the two books. The earlier work devotes over one thousand pages to the first fifty years of the Alliance, while the later work, roughly half the size of its predecessor (even when allowance is made for the somewhat smaller type in which it is set), deals with a period which is longer by fifty crowded, difficult and generally catastrophic years. A re-reading of Narcisse Leven's work confirms one's first impression that of the two it is the more spacious and leisurely, and that its unhurried exposition and patient marshalling of detail allow the reader a more satisfactory glimpse into the political transactions of the Alliance and its remarkable educational enterprise. Again, the present work devotes much space to a quick and potted review of recent Jewish history; it would have been perhaps preferable for the author to assume his readers' familiarity with the main lines of modern Jewish history and to devote this space to a more detailed history of the Alliance itself. Lastly, the scheme of the book may also perhaps be queried. Of its five parts the first gives an account of the foundation of the Alliance, the second is entitled , Adolphe Cremieux and Political Emancipation', the third' Narcisse Leven and Salvation through the School', the fourth 'Sylvain Levi and the Crisis of European Judaism', and the fifth 'Rene Cassin and the Promotion of the Rights of Man'. There is, of course, no gainsaying the prominence of these personalities in the life and fortunes of the Alliance, but it is doubtful whether the history of such an organization is best periodized in terms of personalities.